Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Explosives wash up on Israel beaches

Police search the beach in Ashkelon, 1 February 2010
Israeli police have banned fishermen and residents from the beaches

Police in Israel are searching the beaches and sea off the country's southern coast after two barrels packed with explosives washed ashore.

Israeli sources said the devices were part of a foiled operation by Gaza militants against Israeli ships.

Palestinian militants have claimed responsibility for the failed attacks.

They said they had planned the attacks as revenge for the killings of a senior Hamas commander, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in Dubai and other Palestinian activists.

'New means'

Police sappers detonated one of the explosive devices on the beach in the southern city of Ashkelon late on Monday.

They have closed the beaches at Ashkelon and further north in Ashdod - where the second barrel washed up - as they continue their search for more explosives, Israeli media report.

A spokesman in the Gaza Strip for Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades said the explosive devices were part of a joint operation with two other militant groups - the Popular Resistance Committee's Salahudeen Brigades, and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of the Fatah movement.

"The resistance factions are telling the enemy that they are continuing to think up new means to hurt them in defence of the Palestinian people," the unnamed Palestinian source told Reuters news agency.

Last week, Mr Mabhouh, a Hamas military commander, was found murdered in Dubai.

Hamas claims Israel was behind the assassination of Mr Mabhouh, a founder of its military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades. The group has vowed to avenge his killing.

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